Prime Example Of Phony Theatrical “Acting” That Brando, Clift and Dean Helped to Ret Rid Of

Old-school Hollywood acting and writing used to operate on this level all the time, calling bullshit on itself at every turn. Kirk Douglas getting angrier and angrier, then ending his tirade at Lana Turner with “get out, get out…GET OUT!” Atrocious but delicious. With the influence of Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift peaking in ’52, this proscenium-arch approach to fake-sounding “dialogue” and soap-opera behavior was in its death throes, and yet in the context of a schmaltzy Hollywood melodrama like The Bad and the Beautiful it almost works. Okay, it works. Except there’s no believing it.

  • Yeah, they rot rid of that style good.

  • brenkilco

    Great movie. Starlet Stewart, the “company”, gets the movie’s other classic line “There are no great men, honey. There’s only men.” She married a rich, game show producer and in middle age became a proto Vanna White turning oversize cards or tossing oversize dice on one of hubby’s shows.

  • JoeS

    There have been many different “acting styles” over the years. That’s how things go. No earth-shattering news, there.

    The key are how individual actors perform in a given style and adapt. I’ll take Kirk Douglas in many a film over a good number of the mumbling nabobs who tried and failed to do Brando. Any day of the week, and twice for a Saturday matinee double bill.

    • Raygo

      It helps that they’re incredibly beautiful people. Lana Turner was underrated.

      • Spicerpalooza

        “A hooker cut to look like Lana Turner is still a hooker. She just looks like Lana Turner.”

    • z2knees

      Hell, I’ll take them over at least half a dozen of Brando’s more indulgent mumble-throughs. I’ve said it here before: Streetcar, Waterfront, and Godfather are, granted, unassailable. But there’s a lot of shit Marlon still gets a pass on, and it needs to be honestly assessed again after all these years with fresh, non-nostalgic eyes, starting with Sayonara and Last Tango. I might add this bit of heresy, that both Clift and especially Dean were horrible actors.

      • Bob Strauss

        And Kirk is still outliving all of them.

      • Thank you. I thought I was the only one who strongly disliked “Last Tango.” And I’m sorry nobody ever brought up “Sayonara” during Brando’s political phase in the 70s.

        It’s probably a tasteless thing to say, but I think Clift became a more interesting actor after his car accident.

      • brenkilco

        I think dean is amazing in giant. Is he good? That might be a different question.

        • filmklassik

          To me, Dean seemed overwrought (at times, anyway) in EAST OF EDEN, but was terrific in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and GIANT.

          He really was a great-looking, charismatic, wonderfully talented kid.

          And a very bad driver.

          What a goddamned fool.

          • brenkilco

            He physically contorts himself in Eden like he’s having seizures. He’d only have been forty in the mid seventies. Would he have been Nicholson or just a weirdly affected character actor by then? No way to know.

            • filmklassik

              You’re right. We’ll never know. But how many other actors showed such raw promise right out of the gate? At the moment I can’t think of one.

              Wait- actually I can: Clift in RED RIVER. But it’s a rare thing.

            • I think that’s the thing about Dean. He always overplayed the big scenes horribly. But he also had that magic and charisma that makes a star rather than an actor. It’s tempting to think that he might have fitted into the 70s New Hollywood better than he did the Hollywood of the 50s, but how good he might have been depends on whether he’d learned to dial down the histrionics along the way.

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      • filmklassik

        Horrible actors? Surely you jest. Those guys were terrific (at least much of the time), but, like Marlon Brando, they inspired legions of piss-poor imitators.

    • Professor Wagstaff

      There’s a good reason why “acting like they’re inventing Brando” is a common criticism.

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  • Djiggs

    Is the acting style really that much different than the style here?

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=MYaSEygOFbs

  • brenkilco

    Death Throes? Douglas managed lead roles for another twenty five years.

    • Are you high? I said that “old-school Hollywood acting…fake-sounding dialogue and soap-opera behavior” was in its death throes at this stage with method acting starting to take hold. Not Douglas’s career.

      • filmklassik

        “Old school Hollywood acting, fake sounding dialogue, and soap-opera behavior”…

        Fair enough And from this remark, can we assume you have a (relatively) low opinion of the movies made by Bogie, Cagney, Davis, Mitchum, Grant, Tracy, et al.? In other words, Hollywood’s finest before the first wave of Method guys stormed the beaches?

        And do you think the 20 greatest movies from, for example, 2000-2009 are on balance better, smarter and more entertaining than the top 20 films of the 1940s?

        Do you really believe that?

      • brenkilco

        Naturalistic acting didn’t start with the actor’s studio. There was Tracy, Cooper etc. And the angst of Dean and Clift didn’t supplant everything else. Old school guys like Douglas and Lancaster and Mitchum and Wayne were still going strong in the seventies. Caine is still going strong today and he’s hardly method. You think Clooney or Melissa Mccarthy or Tom Cruise owe anything to Stanislavski? Or that Bogart would have to change a damn thing about his style if we could resurrect him? This is over broad. And the twitchy excesses of the method look as antiquated today as those old time scenery chewers.

        • filmklassik

          Bren, I’m afraid you still don’t get it. (Are you really that dense?? Jesus Christ…). Y’see, it isn’t just acting that’s gotten better since the days of Bogie, Stanwyck, Tracy, etc. — dialogue’s improved, too.

          So take something like CASABLANCA. A perfectly good movie for its time, but today? Give me a break. Ah, but wait! With a page-one rewrite by the likes of Sorkin or Frank or Dan Gilroy and its leads recast with *modern* actors like Daniel Day Lewis (as Rick), Keira Knightley (as Ilsa), and Benedict Cumberbatch (as Laszlo), well, a fine little relic from a bygone age could be turned into something of real quality.

          I live in hope.

          • brenkilco

            You’ve convinced me. With Jonah Hill as Ferrari

            and Steve Buscemi as Ugarte

            “You despise me, don’t you Rick. I mean I know that, you know that, everybody knows that. We’ve never been pals, besties, amigos, blood brothers. But Jesus Christ, Rick, I’m a friendly guy……”

            • filmklassik

              Rick (derisively): Letters of transit? Seriously?

              Ugarte: Come on, Dude. It’s just for like a day.

              Rick: If I’m caught with these in my crib the Nazis’ll go all Reichstag on my ass. Forget it.

              Ugarte: What the fuck?! I thought we were besties!

              Rick: If I have a bestie, it’s my African-American piano player Samuel.

              Ugarte: Y’mean the non-servile one with the music degree from Harvard?

              Rick: Yale. You call yourself woke?

              • brenkilco

                Don’t forget the climax where a leather clad Ilsa kicks serious Nazi ass.

                • filmklassik

                  Nope, she requires rescuing.

                  Kidding. Of COURSE she kicks serious Nazi ass!

  • Reverent and free

    What makes soap opera dialigue work for Douglas is when he goes into his signature Douglas tirade. A quality that was passed on genetically to Michael.

  • John Cope

    Because Dean apparently wasn’t “theatrical”.

  • Yeah, but still entertaining as hell. Love that movie.

    I find James Dean pretty hammy, though — tries too hard at “not acting.”

  • Muldoon

    There’s nothing hammier than Method actors letting loose with their emotions. Clift is relatively subtle compared with Brando and Dean. And don’t forget the ladies: Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, Ellen Burstyn. The most irritatingly overwrought performance of all time is Gena Rowlands in Woman under the Influence. While I respect the inventiveness and realism of Brando and his followers, I prefer the subtlety of Cary Grant, Bogart, Stanwyck, etc., but movies would be boring with only one style of acting. I’m always amused when watching Ride Lonesome and wondering what is going on in Randy Scott’s mind during the Method tics of James Coburn and Pernell Roberts.

    • Raygo

      Gena Rowlands has done some fantastic work in her career, but I don’t think I’ve ever made it through A Woman Under the Influence in one sitting. It’s just too much. And today, Viola Davis can certainly serve up some ham salad.

      • Muldoon

        Viola has said in interviews that she agreed to do How to Get Away with Murder only if allowed to go full throtle–which she does.

      • Tessa Topsy

        I thought she was WAY WAY over-the-top in FENCES, especially in what I call the “snot scene.” Less is more. I only wish I could have seen the great Mary Alice in the role, which she originated on Broadway (for which she was the Featured Actress Tony … not Lead)

  • Mister Quigley Jr.

    I think in one scene during FENCES, Davis’ character literally gives Denzel a ham sandwich.

  • SAR

    Yes, by all means, let’s have decades more of dozens of completely interchangeable, forgettable, slightly better-looking than average, barely trained, non-entities mumbling, “underplaying,” & their way through movies we’ll forget in a year. Meanwhile, you’re still pissing from a lofty height on movies made 60-plus years ago and actual stars who had voltage.

  • K. Bowen

    Yet somehow you’re in love with Jennifer Lawrence ….